Bamboo is a grass. That was news to me. I knew you could eat the bamboo shoots or young canes, as I've eaten the canned varieties many times, but did not know what to look for or how to harvest or prepare them.
This stand of bamboo is approximately 30 feet around and about 60-70 feet tall. If I were to stand beside it, I would be dwarfed! This shot was taken from about half-way up our driveway looking down.
There is a huge clump of bamboo growing at the bottom of the driveway and a friend comes every so often to harvest the new shoots. When he was here a few days ago, I asked him to show me what to look for and how to prepare it. Patrick was very helpful and I finally prepared and tasted fresh bamboo shoots for the first time.
Bamboo shoot coming out of the ground - not quite ready to harvest yet. The shoots are harvested when they are approximately 2 weeks old.
According to one of the sources I checked, bamboo shoots are high in fiber, are a good source of potassium and contain very few calories (one cup of half-inch long slices contain only 14 calories) and hardly any fat, making it an ideal source of food.
Bamboo shoot after cutting and before peeling.
Starting to peel
Trimming the bottom end
In the kitchen - peeling and trimming as I cut. When you start peeling, there is a shiny pink layer of 'skin' similar to the skin on new ginger. This layer needs to be trimmed off.
I sliced some of the shoot to make scalloped bamboo shoots and I cut some julienne style for our salad.
Most bamboo shoots need to be cooked before they are eaten. There are some varieties I will mention below that can be eaten raw (*). The internet sources I found said to cook the shoots for about 20 minutes. Patrick told me they cook it for 1 hour. I opted for safe I also cooked mine for an hour.
I rinsed them in cold water after cooking, drained and stored in a lidded-plastic container in the refrigerator until ready to use. The cooked shoots can also be drained and frozen.
The bamboo shoot can be stored in the refrigerator, raw while still whole and unpeeled. Just place in the vegetable crisper drawer, but for no longer than two weeks as it then starts developing a bitter taste. The site recommends keeping it away from sunlight as much as possible since that can also make it taste bitter.
Our Fresh Bamboo 'Yard Salad'
We call it our 'yard salad' since everything in it, except for the chevre, came from our yard. This salad varies, depending on what is available to pick in the garden at the time.
The salad pictured above consisted of whole Malabar spinach leaves, whole Okinawan spinach leaves and a chiffonade of Dawn Dewa spinach leaves. Chiffonade of Italian or sweet basil, leaves of lemon basil; ruffled and plain purple basil; snippets of flat or Italian parsley leaves; the little top knot of pineapple sage; snipped chives; whole mizuna leaves, and another salad leaf I can't identify. I added some seeded and sliced purple peppers and some seeded rounds of banana pepper. To add color, I sprinkled the petals from both one yellow and one orange marigold. I added the cooked, julienne bamboo shoots and about a tablespoon size piece of chevre.
We used a vinaigrette I make with white vinegar, garlic cloves and ginger slices. It is so easy to make I never let this one run out!
(*) According to Barry, one of my sources from a tropical plant group in which I'm a member, he grows two varieties that can be eaten raw.
Nastus elatus and Dendrocalamus brandesil.
He says he likes to use them, raw in salads with much the same ingredients as one would find in the Thai version of Green Papaya Salad. Replace the fresh, thinly shredded bamboo shoots for the green papaya. He also says that fresh palm hearts and Peach Palm (Bactris gasipaes) will work in this dish as well.
The owner-moderator of that group, Mike V. said he thinks the P. dulcis, iirc variety of bamboo can also be eaten raw. Another good edible variety according to Mike V. is Vivax, though he thinks it is best cooked.
For more information or if interested in joining click on the Taro and Ti group.